Suicide Cave - Alan Brentnall

Saturday, 16 May, 2015

After key holding for the Joint Services cavers, and after a meeting with the TSG Trustees, there wasn't a great deal of time left for a caving trip, so I suggested Suicide Cave at the foot of Winnats Pass as a suitable short trip. I haven't been into Suicide for a few years and we may want to use some of the pitches in there for SRT training. However, there have been notifications about the boulder by the Y hang on the top pitch, the right hand bolt of the bottom pitch Y hang - and, of course, Dave and Charlie's Dig of Death. So a careful inspection was in order.

After a quick change in the Chapel, we drove up to Speedwell and I nipped into the shop for a brief chat with John Harrison, to gain permission to park our cars, and to give him the opportunity to take the piss out of my "priestly" purple furry suit. Once that was sorted, we kitted up and set off in. At the top of the boulder slope (you can no longer go beneath it) we checked the P bolts and the Fixe glue-in back up, and, right enough, there is about 1mm play in the right-hand P-Bolt of the main Y-hang. Usable, and shared with a good bolt, but I'm sure that the DCA bolters will re-install it soon.

Clambering down the blocks at the near side of pitch 1, we followed the floor of the cave, through a small squeeze, and up a gravelly slope to a climb up to the roof tunnel at the very top. Here there were more P bolts, and the odd spit leading around to a great void where the top pitch goes. This pitch isn't often used these days, and you can see why; while the Y hang bolts are OK, the block immediately below is exhibiting a large crack along its length indicating that, at some time in the future, it will part company with the wall. The block is enormous, but even bigger is a barely jammed boulder immediately below, and this is the reason why all plans to "bar off" the block have so far come to nothing, because, if the worst happened and the lower boulder came away too, the consequences for anybody stranded on the ledge above could be pretty dire.

Apparently there are epoxy "tell tales" in the crack which were placed some years ago by Dave Carlisle and which, according to 2013 reports, don't seem to have been affected, but I forgot to check these. Suffice to say that I won't be using this pitch for training. While we were looking at hanging death, we decided to have a shufty at Charlie and Dave's Dodgy Dig and so, from the end of the traverse for the top pitch, we traversed in the opposite direction into a small chamber, which was originally "gated off" with timbers to keep young children and others out. At the far side of the chamber a steep, gravelly slope led up to a particularly dodgy bit, comprising a trunk-sized boulder held up by a piece of old wood. This was enough to prevent our progress, so we never saw the actual dig, although I'm pretty sure that this route originally led to the (now blocked) top entrance.

Retracing our steps, we got almost down to the bottom of the cave, but then traversed forward to a climb up boulders which leads to two pitches. The first is a short pitch down to the base, equipped with a P bolt Y hang, and further forward is another P bolt Y hand, backed up by a Fixe glue-in, which drops down via a re-belay and optional deviation to the foot of pitch 1. There is also a traverse line on the left using various brands of stainless bolts, which leads to the top of pitch one, and these three pitches can provide an excellent venue for an SRT training session, and are all well out of the way of the threatening block on the top pitch.

As I said, I hadn't been in there for a few years, but it had been decades since Roy and Ann had been in, and they were both amazed at the complexity of the cave, and the size of the passages - and, if you don't use SRT, it's a really good work out, and much cheaper than the gym!